Contextual Behavioural Science Research Lab

Our Research group aims to develop and improve evidence-based psychological interventions through an understanding of the interrelation between basic human learning processes and complex behaviours.

We aim to do this by bringing together fundamental and intervention research in such a way that each informs the other.

Meet our team

Lab Co-ordinator: Lee Hulbert-Williams, Senior Lecturer
Lorna Allix, PhD Student
Sam Ashcroft, PhD Student
Dan Bushell, Undergraduate Research Assistant
Sam Flynn, PhD Student
Kevin Hochard, Lecturer
Nick Hulbert-Williams, Professor of Behavioural Medicine
Will Kent, PhD Student
Moira Lafferty, Deputy Head of Psychology
Rhian McHugh, Technician & PhD Student
Brooke Swash, Lecturer
Tony Whalley, PhD Student

 

Some of our current projects

Ultra-brief non-expert delivered Acceptance and Commitment Training exercises for food cravings (PI: Lee Hulbert-Williams). Food cravings are associated with higher body mass and poorer outcome in weight loss programmes. To date, there has been a dearth of effective strategies for ameliorating the effects of food cravings. We conducted a trial of ultra-brief (15-minute) contextual behavioural interventions, supported by self-help leaflets, in association with a chocolate challenge (carrying bags of chocolate for a week). Sixty-three student participants were randomised to groups and then briefly taught either an acceptance, defusion, or relaxation (control) technique. Participants were asked to carry a bag of chocolates for the subsequent week without eating them. We also measured the number of chocolates consumed during a rebound period at the end of the experiment. Results showed that the two intervention strategies were effective by comparison with a control condition when using behavioural measures, though this was not reflected in a self-report diary measure.


Psychological flexibility as a moderator for known predictors of suicidality (PI: Kevin Hochard).  Defeat, hopelessness, and hyper-arousal are commonly identified risk factors for suicidality. Third-wave therapeutic interventions such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) have been show to build psychological flexibility, a behavioural tendency to persist toward valued ends and to accept difficult emotions and experiences with equanimity. This study demonstrated that psychological flexibility moderates the impact of known risk factors on suicidality. A cross sectional online psychometric survey was conducted (n=843) assessing depressive symptoms, defeat, hopelessness, hyper-arousal, psychological flexibility, and suicidal ideation. Bootstrapped moderation analyses were performed. Findings indicate a significant moderating effect of psychological flexibility on the relationship between risk factors and suicidal thinking whilst controlling for the effects of depressive symptoms. We suggest that interventions which focus on increasing levels of psychological flexibility may be beneficial for suicide prevention.

 

You don’t have to do that to be in our team: Challenging team initiation practices through a video intervention (PI: Moira Lafferty).  Research in the United Kingdom has failed to show a positive relationship between initiation ceremonies and team cohesion. Despite this, the practice of initiation activities as a way of welcoming new players into the team continues. This project developed an intervention targeted at those responsible for organising such events using an interactive video narrative approach.  Interviews were conducted with sport players who had undergone a sporting initiation, and were analysed using a narrative time line approach to develop a script focusing on the thoughts and feelings of a new team player facing the initiation event. A short interactive video was produced. Intervention impact is measured through a pre- post-questionnaire package.

 

Psychological flexibility as a moderator of unmet supportive care needs and distress in haematological cancer survivors (PI: Brooke Swash). Cancer survivors report multiple types of unmet supportive care needs, including a need for information about their illness, more emotional or psychological support, or increased social support.  Needs  are important correlates of psychological wellbeing in cancer patients, but little is known about the factors which influence the relationship. As an important construct of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), psychological flexibility is known to influence psychological wellbeing.  This study is exploring the potential moderating effects of psychological flexibility on the relationship between needs and wellbeing in haematological cancer survivors. We recruited 91 participants through two UK blood cancer charities. Participants completed a questionnaire that assessed unmet needs, psychological flexibility, anxiety, depression and perceived quality of life.  This work will be an important first step in demonstrating the potential role for ACT based interventions to improve wellbeing in this group of cancer patients.

 

Recent publications

Hochard K. D., Heym, N., & Townsend, E. (2015). The unidirectional relationship of nightmares on self-harmful thoughts and behaviors. Dreaming, 25, 44–58. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0038617

Brown, H., Lafferty, M.E., & Triggs, C. (2015). In the face of adversity: Resiliency in winter sport athletes. Science & Sports, 30(5), e105-e117.  Available Online doi:10.1016/j.scispo.2014.09.006 http://hdl.handle.net/10034/336962

Porter, J., Hulbert-Williams, L., Chadwick, D. (2015). Sexuality in the Therapeutic Relationship: An Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis of the Experiences of Gay Therapists. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Mental Health, 19(2), 165-183

Nicholls, N., Hulbert-Williams, L. (2013). British English translation of the Food Craving Inventory (FCI-UK). Appetite, 67, 37-43. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2013.03.010

Hulbert-Williams, L., Nicholls, W., Joy, J., Hulbert-Williams, N. (2013). Initial Validation of the Mindful Eating Scale. Mindfulness, 5(6), 719-729. DOI: 10.1007/s12671-013-0227-5

Mills, S.E., & Hulbert-Williams, L. (2012).  Distinguishing between treatment efficacy and effectiveness in Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Implications for contentious therapies. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 25(3), 319-330. DOI: 10.1080/09515070.2012.682563

Hulbert-Williams, N. J., Hulbert Williams, S.L., McIlroy, D., & Bunting, B. (2008). Anxiety in recovery from severe burn injury: An experimental comparison. Psychology, Health and Medicine, 13(2), 162-167.